c.1920 Fancy Unmarked Portuguese Guitar

This is a beautiful example of an earlier (smaller, 17 1/4" scale, narrow 1 1/2" nut) Portuguese guitar. It's in really great shape with the exception of damage to one side of the scroll headstock and a few hairline cracks (repaired) on the back and treble side. The top has no cracks.

My work included repairing the back hairlines and also cleating/repairing the side hairlines, cleaning, setup, fret work and fret level/dress, tuner lube, and a replacement bridge. It now plays beautifully with a hair over 1/16" action at the 12th fret and a slick, quick feel.

've strung it with a light 12-string guitar set (I pop the ball ends out and then make 2nd loops on the other end) which allows for tunings of GCFBbDG ("terz") or ADGCEA ("quart") guitar tunings as well as a variety of open tunings. GDGBDG (open D raised to G pitch) sounds extra nice on this. While not traditional (trad. tuning would be DABEAB bass to treb) this allows for easy fingering if you're already a regular guitarist and also gives the instrument an extended range vs. standard Fado tuning.

The soundboard is in great shape. With all that "extra string length" below the bridge, Portuguese guitars tend to be rich in overtones and lingering sustain.

The fretboard appears to be olive wood to my eyes, but may just be some form of rosewood. The inlay is a sort of ivoroid-y material. Note the M&J inlays -- cool!

The frets are all brass bar stock with the exception of the first three which appear to be mostly copper!

Brass "peacock" (clock key style) tuners work great even after all this time. Note the brass nut which is necessary to hold the strings against the sideways tension of those outer tuner hooks.

I reprofiled a tall ebony/maple banjo bridge to stand in or the original (probably bone or rosewood) bridge. This works nicely (and looks cool, too) since it's so lightweight and the original bridge probably was as well. A lightweight bridge brings that full, ringing, zinging tone right to the fore.

Nice simple soundhole rosette, too.

The "rope" binding on the top edge is a really nice touch.

Nice mahogany on the sides, huh?

The breathtakingly pretty mahogany on the rear might be curly Cuban or Honduran mahogany since it's so orangey in color and curly.

There are three fairly long hairline cracks on the back but they've all been filled and were pretty tight to begin with.

It's hard to see but there's also a patched hairline crack (2 of them, actually) towards the neck block on this side. I cleated them as well and they're all good to go.

I like the contrasting endstrip!

Workshop: Mods for Ben

Recently Mr. Ben asked if I could modify a small Kay guitar into an 8-string tenor guitar tuned DGBE. This is the result. I was intending to sand the sides and stain them black but because they're so very thin I decided to leave them as is.

The work involved reslotting and raising the original nut, a new ebony bridge, mod of the tailpiece, and installation of two extra 4:1 banjo tuners at the headstock (these were from my parts bin leftovers). The idea was to do it on the cheap, since the guitar itself is on the cheap, and come out with something nice.

...and? It has come out nice. I really love the sound. It's very "Portuguese guitar" or "bouzouki" sounding (but also full) with the ringing octaves on the DG&B strings and has a nice biting lead on the unison E.

I wanted to put black buttons on the banjo pegs but didn't have any that would work. I had to drill through the middle of the headstock because there wasn't quite enough room up at the top. I think Folkway Music did a similar mod to this to an old Harmony H929 a while back.

I placed the strings slightly inboard to give a closer course-to-course feel and make chords easy.


c.1970 Pan Japanese EB-3 Clone Electric Bass Guitar

This is a really cool short-scale bass (30 1/2" scale) made in Japan, probably around 1965-1970 or so. Rumor has it that these are from the Matsumoku plant and they might as well be -- it's a nice-quality bass, definitely in the direct style of the Gibson EB-0 and EB-3 basses. It even has the same cherry finish.

My work on this was just a light cleaning and setup. I picked this up from a friend locally who's parting with some of his instrument collection. As a fan of short-scale basses, I'm pretty tempted by this one. It plays beautifully and has a good, wide-ranging tone to match. These always sound best to my ear with good flatwound strings on them but the roundwounds on it now sound just fine.

The body is a solid 2-piece hunk of Japanese ash in a cherry finish (yep, solid, not laminate like many "SG bass" copies) and the neck appears to be some sort of Asian-variant in the mahogany-ish family. The fretboard is a nice solid piece of rosewood and has a light radius to it. Action is perfect at 3/32" at the 12th with a good straight neck and working trussrod.

One of these tuners has a bent shaft but they all work well.

Real pearl dots in a nice rosewood board. The frets are all in great shape, too. I didn't even need to touch them except for polishing.

Pickups sound great -- one bridge, one neck.

One replacement volume knob. Aside from this, all the hardware is all original.

Nice easily adjustable bridge.

Bolt-on neck. The finish shows use-wear but is in pretty good shape.

The slightly contoured sides at the waist make this comfortable in the lap.

c.1966 Harmony Rocket Electric Guitar

This guitar is owned by a customer of mine but I overhauled it and got it back into playing shape. This involved gluing up a horrid crack on the treble side as well as doing a bit of obnoxious wiring work inside (one replaced pot and hunting down ground issues), a new bone nut, cleaning, tuner lube, and setup.

These Harmony Rockets from the 60s are way cool. This one dates 1966 or onwards due to the trussrod and "moustache" pickup covers. These are semi-hollow guitars and this one is made entirely of solid birch with a poplar neck and dyed fretboard.

The finish on this guitar had tons of white spray paint speckles all over it, like it had been sitting in someone's garage too near to the workbench. Despite the weather-checked finish, it still looks good after cleaning.

A few bent shafts. This headstock lost a lot of the white spray paint flecks in cleaning, thank goodness.

Faux MOP dots, bound board. I didn't have to dress the frets because they had very little wear.

Cool "gold foil" style pickup. Adjustable polepieces. Note the replaced low E polepiece on this pickup and its bridge-pickup brother.

I also had to shim up this (replacement 70s?) bridge with a couple rosewood "feet" to get it high enough. The adjustable thumbwheels are long gone so there are (new) washers and apparently lamp knobs stacked in to adjust the height's fine-tuning. As usual, I had to clean the slots on the saddle because they were buzzing a bit.

I replaced the missing button on this switch. Also note that the pickguard originally mounted with a bracket from the side and a screw above the pickup. The pickguard was missing its top corner and the bracket was loose and someone had installed a screw through the bracket-mounting area on the pickguard right into the top to hold the guard on... so...

...I made a straight line out of the chipped portion of the guard and mounted a new 2nd screw at its top, thus making a top-mounted pickguard with a foam pad underneath that's stable and looks more or less right.

Did I mention the bolt-on neck construction and bound top/back body? Not bad!

See that big crack and the area juuuust visible at the bottom where there are metal plates? Apparently the jack used to be on the side but someone must have bashed into it because there's a big hole there and it opened up a crack from the old jack hole to the pickguard bracket mount scewhole. I glued that crack up as best as I could and installed what cleats I could, but because the kerfing inside is so tall there wasn't any room to install a patch on the broken area. Instead the customer and I decided mending plates would be just fine. Their screws install right through the kerfing and keep the area from trying to come apart on its own.

Simple tailpiece.